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From Garage Startup to Knight Grant Recipient

For many, receiving a grant from the prestigious Knight Foundation is a capstone achievement for a long and distinguished career in journalism. Stroome, the collaborative online video editing community won the Knight 2010 News Challenge.
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For many, receiving a grant from the prestigious Knight Foundation is a capstone achievement for a long and distinguished career in journalism.

As someone who has spent the last 15 years dreaming up stories rather than reporting them, I look at it as just the beginning.

Stroome, the collaborative online video editing community that I co-founded in the fall of 2009 with award-winning journalist Nonny de la Pena, may have officially made its public debut on April 21, 2010 -- the day USC Annenberg announced it would be the first journalism program in the nation to license our platform -- but our 'coming out' party was June 16, 2010. That was the day it was announced we had won the Knight 2010 News Challenge.

Sure, we had experienced some preliminary success before we were plucked by the Knight News Challenge judges from a crowded field of over 2,500. But being named a winner of the 2010 News Challenge has afforded us validation and increased our visibility in ways we could never have imagined or achieved on our own.

The Knight grant put us on a global stage, and, in doing so, has made us acutely aware of how truly global this platform could become.

Since this probably is the first time most of you have heard of Stroome, here's the quick pitch:

Video editing software is not only expensive; it's a power hog on computers. Sure, devices like the Flip and iPhone make it easy to shoot video, but it's still a hassle to download software or edit on a small touch screen. With Stroome, you can port a video project anywhere you go, collaboratively edit it in the browser, then push it to the people who will take notice.

It turns out the first people who took notice of Stroome were journalists.

After a prototype of our site found its way into the New School's "Mashup Culture" media studies class in the fall of 2008, Stroome was invited to attend -- and went on to win -- the Audience Award at the Online News Association's 2009 conference in San Francisco.

ONA members touted Stroome as the "digital newsroom of the future," a virtual video-editing studio in the sky where correspondents, editors and producers can upload, edit and remix their content, then share those mixes with friends and colleagues -- all without using expensive satellite truck technology.

But journalists aren't the only ones using Stroome. Filmmakers, musicians, students, sports enthusiasts, travelers, political activists -- all are starting to find credence in our core value proposition to provide a centralized place for collaborative, browser-based video editing.

But what's amazing to us isn't the sheer number of people who are coming to our site (membership has more than tripled over the last month); it's where they're coming from.

Currently, we have members from over 40 different countries; references to Stroome have appeared on more than 100 news and technology blogs around the world; and we've been invited to attend conferences and participate in forums focusing on the "new paradigm of digital journalism."

There's no question a trend toward cloud-based, collaborative solutions that foster community is rapidly permeating the ether, and to a large extent we are merely beneficiaries of the new zeitgeist.

And even though we are starting to be looked to as thought leaders in the online editing space, I'll be the first to admit The Online Journalism Review, SocalTECH and The Guardian probably wouldn't be asking us to opine on the future of digital storytelling had we not won the Knight grant.

So what's next now that we've been given this amazing opportunity?

In the weeks to come, we will be announcing a half dozen new initiatives. Some of those announcements will be made here; others will be made on PBS's MediaShift Idea Lab, who has partnered with Knight to chronicle a-year-in-the-life of the 2010 News Challenge winners.

And while a majority of our initiatives undoubtedly will tap into our core constituency -- journalists, news organizations, educational institutions -- don't be surprised if a few of our new partnerships fall outside the 'traditional news set.'

After all, the digital age is still young. We are all collaborators. And it's only just the beginning.

Tom Grasty is a novelist, screenwriter and 15-year veteran of the entertainment, advertising and internet industries. He is also a co-founder of Stroome.

To learn more about Stroome, visit or subscribe to the Stroome blog.

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